It's so common to see memes and jokes on Instagram and Twitter about anxiety with thousands of likes and retweets. What makes this interesting is the fact that so many people share it as though it's super relatable and they fully understand the concept of anxiety.
I'm here to tell you it isn't funny. It seems easy to joke about on the surface but it is definitely a sensitive subject and one that we should take seriously. Anxiety isn't always simply worrying about something like a test or a first date. Those things are completely normal to be nervous about or excited for. If you haven't already, check out my other post "It's 2018- Let's Use Our MINDful Manners" to learn more about how manners need to be used when talking about mental illnesses.
Anxiety is a mental illness/disorder that can be diagnosed by a licensed professional. In regards to generalized anxiety disorders, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says it is "excessive anxiety or worry, most days, for at least 6 months." It interferes with health, work, social interactions, and essentially everyday life.
Personally, my anxiety makes me physically sick more days than not. I always seem to have an upset stomach or a headache. Otherwise, my sleep schedule is crazy. I can be up overthinking my entire life until 3 a.m. and then the following week, I'm too depressed to leave my bed.
Anxiety makes me constantly scan the room and remind myself that I'm safe. Anxiety has taken me on a rollercoaster of negative thoughts and has made me overthink the way people say things to me. Not necessarily what they say, but how they say it. It's made me insecure and to always evaluate my relationships with people. Anxiety has driven me to make impulsive choices, speak before I think, and overthink scenarios that really are black and white.
Thankfully, along with help from my counselor and psychiatrist, I have found a combination of calming techniques and medication that helps alleviate some of my worst symptoms. Most importantly, I have worked to find ways to bring myself to reality when I feel like I'm too far away from the truth. Anxiety, in the long run, has made me more understanding, compassionate, and allowed me to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember that I am not defined by an illness but it's rather something I will always be proud to be fighting.
No, it isn't trendy. It takes years of hard work, lots of resources, and more patience than you could ever imagine. If you or someone you love is struggling with persistent anxiety, please reach out and get help. There's zero shame in doing what is right for you and your mental health.